Wednesday, November 06, 2013

2013 books, #86-90

The cemetery of secrets, by David Hewson. London: Pan 2009.

Two intertwined narratives here from the start - one from 1733 and one from the present day, both set in Venice and both featuring the same Guarneri violin.  In the present, Daniel Forster arrives in Venice from Oxford to work for the summer in the library of a private collector, and becomes involved in a plan to buy a stolen violin from a petty thief.  In 1733, Lorenzo arrives to become apprenticed to a printer who works with Vivaldi and other contemporary musicians.  The two stories intertwine in music, love, criminality and cultural differences; and I was left with melancholy over how little some things, particularly the exploitation of young and beautiful women, have changed. Highly recommended, though.

The final detail, by Harlen Coben. London: Orion, 2005.

A Myron Bolitar book.  Myron, knocked sideways by the outcome of his previous case and the breakup of his relationship, escapes for an interlude of meaningless sex on a Caribbean island. Unfortunately, in the interim his business partner Esperanza has been arrested for the murder of one of their most longstanding clients, Clu Haid. Esperanza's not talking; Myron can't really believe she's murdered anyone, but he also doesn't understand why she's so tight-lipped.  And then of course there's Win, Myron's real long-time partner, scary patrician par excellence. Well up to the usual standard with switchback twists and turns towards the end.

Telling tales, by Ann Cleeves [audiobook]. Read by Julia Franklin. Whitley Bay: Soundings, 2008.

I'd seen a couple of the Vera series on catch-up TV or at my parents' - this was the first time I'd listened to one, and it was very enjoyable. Jeanie Lang, convicted of the murder of Abigail Mantel 10 years before, kills herself in prison just before being told that her alibi has actually been confirmed and she's about to be released. Vera is called in to re-investigate this Yorkshire murder, and starts stirring up all sorts of old trouble. Somewhere, Abigail's murderer is still around, and there are several people with something to hide.  Really enjoyed this - I may have to postpone seeing any more of the TV episodes based on books until I've read the books.

Dream of darkness, by Reginald Hill [audiobook]. read by Seán Barrett. Oxford: Isis, 2010. Originally published in 1991.

Sairey Ellis's father is writing his memoirs about his career as a diplomat in in Kenya and Uganda; meanwhile Sairey, aged 18, is haunted by nightmares of seeing her mother's body in a coffin.  One night, she goes out into the square outside her house and meets a beautiful, injured boy who later turns out to have a connection with her family. Hill brings all his customary skill to weave a fascinating, scary tale around real events such as the Kikuyu uprising, national security, torture and betrayal in wartime, with what I found a very unexpected ending. This obviously isn't a long book - it only makes 7 hours' audiobook reading - but there's a heck of a lot in it.

Crooked letter, crooked letter, by Tom Franklin. London: Pan, 2011.

This is a wonderful book. I seem to have had a good year for excellent books, but this is one of the best. The author had me by page 8, when he shoots the only character we've met so far.  Up to that point, Larry's someone I sort of like. For another while, you find out he's the town bogeyman, suspected of the death of a young girl after an evening at a drive-in movie... And then the guy investigating his case turns out to be either the best or the worst person to give Larry a fair hearing.  It's a tale of friendship, and danger, and racial politics.  The title, we're told in the epigraph, comes from a spelling rhyme, and that really works; while this book is all about adults, the relationships and attitudes which shape it werew formed in childhood.  This has a detective novel structure, and it's a fine Southern novel within that structure; if you enjoyed To Kill a Mockingbird, or anything by Joshilyn Jackson, you'd love this book.